Technology

World’s 1st conference on ethics of sex robots launches in UK

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The ethics of sex robots and the latest research into technology and intimacy is discussed in a World First Conference starting Thursday in Salford, Greater Manchester, UK.

With the theme, “Technology and Intimacy: Choice or Coercion?” the conference is the first to explore how technology is influencing the ways in which humans create and express intimacy.

The conference is part of the 12th annual Human Choice and Computers Conference taking place at MediaCityUK in Salford and runs from September 7-9.

Dr. David Kreps of Salford University, said the event will consider the latest research and theories about how humans engage with robots, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other forms of technology to explore issues of intimacy and sexuality.

For the first time, leading researchers will come together to discuss the ethics, morals, and future of sex and technology. According to David Levy’s book, “Love and Sex with Robots,” humans will fall in love with and even marry social robots in the not-too-distant future.

Technology and intimacy — robots and sex, are also highly controversial topics, and there is a strong ethical backlash spearheaded by the “Campaign Against Sex Robots” and its leading advocate, Kathleen Richardson.

However, the debate over creating and taking a body for sexual intimacy, whether mechanical or organic, consensual or not, goes back to Biblical times. The book of Genesis describes a race of giants called the Nephilim, who were called the “sons of God” who took the “daughters of man.”

The Nephilim Giants of Genesis and the issue of sex robot consent

“There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown,” Genesis 6:4.

Whether you take this literally or interpret “giants” to mean “giants of intellect” makes little difference because here we are in a mythical realm where snakes talk, chariots of fire blaze through the skies, and miraculous feats occur that defy modern physics. Genesis is also a rewrite of much older Mesopotamian texts like the Enuma Elish and the Epic of Gilgamesh that much can be left to translation.

Read More: AI and the Epic of Gilgamesh: Humanity’s 4,000 year quest for immortality made digital

However, the Bible does bring up a point worthy of ethical debate related to the topic of consent.

The sons of God – the giants known as the Nephilim — were said to have bred with the daughters of man. This is an example of a dominant species taking advantage of humankind. Now that humans have become the dominant species, we have become like God in creating our own Artificial Intelligence in the conception of robots for intimacy and sex.

Pointing out the ethical concerns of consent, Sinziana Gutiu presented her paper entitled “Sex Robots and Roboticization of Consent” at the We Robot Conference 2012. In her abstract, she claims:

“Creators of sex robots apply technological advances in artificial intelligence (AI) to produce and market sexual partners for consumers. In turn, these new interactions will affect the way humans behave with one another. The paper will explore how male interactions with female-sexbots will erode the notion of consent by dehumanizing sex and intimacy in male-female relationships.”

Is this not exactly what the Nephilim did when they came unto the daughters of man? Did they not take the human females – the creations of “God” who were not of the same mold — without consent? Just as humans now don’t view robots as being human, did the giants see humans as being equal to their own? Another debate for a later time.

Artificial Intelligence vs Human Appearance

While the technology exists to create very life-like, mechanical robots in appearance, the AI powering them is greatly lacking. Remember what happened to Microsoft’s AI Chatbot, Tay? It became a foul-mouthed, conspiracy-theorist with a familial fetish for the Third Reich in less than 24 hours after it began learning how to respond from human users on Twitter.

Read More: How Microsoft’s AI chatbot ‘Tay’ turned incestuous Nazi accurately reflects our society

Tomorrow, the world’s first conference on technology and intimacy takes place. There will be proponents who see sex robots as a normal and necessary means of the human capacity to become more god-like in a natural progression towards evolving Artificial Intelligence. Others representing the business-side of things won’t care about ethics or morals, only whether or not it will be more profitable than the $97 billion per year porn industry.

On the other side will be people like Kathleen Richardson, who say the ethical dilemma isn’t about whether or not the technology should be banned — in which case you could consider vibrators, fleshlights, and blowup dolls as being sex robots, but rather what AI researchers are claiming about sex robots and their potential capacity for providing human-like intimacy, and how that will affect society.

“These [sex robot] advocates claim that robotic machines can take on human roles without consequence to human society,” claims Richardson. You can check out her Ted Talk below to get a better picture of what Richardson has to say on the subject.

5 Comments

  1. Are you telling me that in this day and age, quoting the old testament is still a valid argument? Not only that, but to use some ancient giant rapists myth and compare that to modern humans building sex robots? How do you even begin a rational conversation from that incredibly biased starting point?

    I think sex robots will be a thing fairly soon. And I think there needs to be a conversation surrounding their ethical use. But this “conference” is nothing more than a religious hate group gathering dressed up in a very thin veneer of progressive discussion.

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Tim Hinchliffe
Tim Hinchliffe is the editor of The Sociable. His passions include writing about how technology impacts society and the parallels between Artificial Intelligence and Mythology. Previously, he was a reporter for the Ghanaian Chronicle in West Africa and an editor at Colombia Reports in South America. tim@sociable.co